Using Your Brains Before They’re Eaten

Last weekend my improv friends from Pavlov’s Dogs and our spouses set out on an adventure. No, we didn’t go to a craft beer tasting, or ride around town in a karaoke limo. We were locked in a room with a zombie and had 60 minutes to solve riddles in order to escape. Spoiler: we all died.

About a month ago I got a Living Social email offer for something called “Room Escapes”. Interested. “Use your wits to solve complex puzzles in order to gain your freedom before you and your team are eaten by a zombie.” [click] purchased.

I had never heard of anything like this, and it sounded 1000x better than a murder mystery performed by your local community theater thespians. Plus any extra training I can get before the impending zombie apocalypse will only make me and my compadres more Z-proof.

A group of 9 of us were locked and loaded for the event. Two spouses wanted no part of this due to fear. One female (understandable), one male (major eyebrow raise). After dinner we wagon-trained to the place through a series of roads in west Dallas that we’ve never heard of before. Malaka St.? Quebec St.?

As we drove past abandoned and derelict shipping warehouses and 1970s office fronts I had a moment of pause – is this an elaborate ruse to lure people into an organ harvesting syndicate? But, Living Social posted it, surely they vet things out. Unless, wait a minute, what if EVERY Living Social deal was actually a front for organ harvesting!?

Sure enough it was a legitimate business, albeit a little rough around the edges. The “manager” looked like he might have a couple Level 50 characters in World of Warcraft, and he was playing Avenged Sevenfold on his portable speakers on a card table. Also, he was “vaping” from a device that looked like a mini-lightsaber. Super nice guy though.

We all signed our waivers and met the 2 other people that had signed up last minute for our timeslot: a 9-month pregnant lady and her baby-daddy. Not kidding. I felt bad for them, because I know the personalities of our group and they would undoubtedly get steam-rolled in the rush to sniff out clues and solve puzzles. But hey, there are no rules when society breaks down from zombie infestation.

3…2…1… we are led into the room and the door is locked, the counter starts and we have 5 minutes before the chained up zombie appears. The rules are that every 5 minutes the zombie’s chain is lengthened by 1 ft, so by the 60-minute time length the zombie’s chain is long enough to reach the entire room. GO!

It was chaos. The room is filled with items that looked like they came from a shopping spree at an east Texas antique mall. All of us are looking into things, around things, under things finding all kinds of letters, numbers, ciphers, and odd markings. We were all barking out our findings to the point where it sounded like the floor of a bizarre stock exchange. “I found a dictionary with the word HACK circled!!” “Here are some post cards and the stamps areas are circled!!” There are a bunch of coasters with 1792 written on them!!”

DING! The zombie bursts out of an upright wardrobe. Her name was “Dr. Oxy” and she apparently succumbed to her own experiments and chained herself up to protect anyone who wandered into her office. The wig and makeup were actually pretty good, and her “zombieness” was par. I’ve seen better, but my focus was on figuring stuff out.

We were figuring stuff out left and right, DING!, the zombie chain was lengthened. We had a major “AHA!” moment on a key clue, which led to the next thing to figure out, DING! I was impressed with our little group, everyone was contributing in some form or another, DING! The zombie was in striking distance now, able to roam through half the room. “TODDDD!!! NOOOOO!!!!” He was the first person to die. Which means you have to sit against the wall, able to speak but not touch anything. “BABY-DADDDDY NOOO!!!!” I saw a wave of relief wash over him, he was clearly being nice and tagging along with Mama.

Now things were getting frustrating. We had some objects that you knew needed to be used somewhere, and some locks that clearly needed to be opened, but our progress was slowing down. DING! More people were dying. The zombie could now reach 80% of the room. We figured a huge clue and got a battery, which led to a key, which led to another clue, and then, “MEEEEEE!!!!!! NOOOOO!!!!” The zombie’s hair touched my leg.

Okay, I know this is a game for fun so I didn’t contest things with a dungeon master or a girl in zombie makeup, but I really think I got the shaft. Show me one instance of zombie hair killing or infecting someone, and I’ll change my tune. I digress.

We figured out all of the clues! We had all of the moves we need to unlock the padlock locking the door, the problem is that the zombie lady literally squatted right by the padlock for about 7 minutes. We had 2.5 people left, my lovely, take charge wife, Mama and the baby in her belly. They tried coaxing the zombie to them, but the zombie never moved. BUZZ! Game over, we lost.

Again, this is a game for fun, but I firmly believe that it would have been easier if it were a real undead walker driven by instinct for flesh than an actress getting $10/hr.

As soon as the buzzer went off, the zombie stood up and in a voice that sounded like Jessie from the Toy Story movies she said, “Oh Man! I killed all’a you! I’ve never killed everyone before!” Ok, thanks lady. She and Dungeon Master did go on to say that we had figured most of the puzzles out quicker than anyone else, but that we hit a major lull in the middle. And then, well, death.

All in all, we had an absolute blast because it was an activity so different from anything we’ve ever done before. And it is invigorating in a weird, way when you are forced to use all of your senses and your mind to escape a harrowing incident. It made me ponder how we humans are odd in that we are in pursuit of danger through recreation. 

Other species have natural predators to fear, but we have to conjure up new and inventive ways to potentially meet our demise. Whoa. That’s a heady topic for a different day. Thankfully I only lost my pretend brains to the zombie.

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